Category Archives: Genealogy

March v. Ellis a bitter family dispute

 300px-The_Court_of_Chancery_during_the_reign_of_George_I_by_Benjamin_FerrersThe Court of Chancery in the reign of George I  (source: Wikipedia)

The case of Francis March against members of the Ellis family is very typical of 18th-century Jamaican Chancery cases. Many of these arose because of the early deaths of colonists and their reliance on loans taken out in expectation of repayment from the profits of their estates, profits which did not always materialise. Add to this the problems of remote management of estates for absentee owners, inadequate record keeping, records lost by accident or destruction by the Jamaican climate, and you have a difficult mix in which disputes about Wills and land ownership could drag on for many years.

Moreover decisions of the Jamaican court had to be ratified in England and so a litigant might find themselves fighting in the courts of both Jamaica and London. This is the context of a case that spanned the first quarter of the eighteenth century involving the descendants of John Ellis and his son-in-law Francis March.

John Ellis arrived in Jamaica either with or shortly after the first group of colonists and rapidly acquired several estates and plantations. When he died in August 1706 he left three of 11 children still living – John, George and Martha. His daughter Martha had married Frances March in 1701 when she was 17 and he was about 21 and Ellis appointed his son-in-law as one of his Executors.

John Ellis junior married Elizabeth Grace Nedham (sometimes written Needham) and they had four children living at his early death in England only three years after his father. John the elder had left legacies to his daughter Anne, and to his grandchildren Sarah and John March as well as to the poor of the parish of St Katherine’s. The bulk of his estate was left to his son John, who on his death had made a will leaving £2000 Jamaican currency to each of his daughters Mary and Martha when they married, plus an additional £1000 to each of their first children. He left £1000 to his sister which appears to have been due to her from their father’ s will and £500 to Abigail Demetrius who was then a minor. Having made provision for the education of all his children and Abigail he left various parcels of land to his son George making his elder son John residuary legatee. This third John Ellis later died without having made a will or having married.

As Executor Frances March apparently discovered after the death of the second John Ellis that none of the legacies due from John Ellis the elder had been paid and that John Ellis the younger had died in debt to the tune of over £8000 (which would have a purchasing power of nearly £900,000 today).

The Ellis property in Jamaica consisted of the Caymanus Plantation, a large part of the Crawle Plantation, two thirds of the Sixteen Mile Walk Plantation, plus some other uncultivated land and all the associated sugar works, slaves, stock and equipment.

The Sixteen Mile Walk Plantation was owned in part by Susanna Cooke who had leased it to a man called Carlton Goddard in return for an income of £50 per year, and in about 1704 the younger John Ellis had agreed to buy out Carlton Goddard’s share for £1800, paid in instalments with interest. Ellis took possession of the land, but failed to pay most of the money and all of the rent.

Before the legal formalities had been completed conveying the land to John Ellis, Carlton Goddard was declared bankrupt and his Jamaican property was assigned to a London merchant called Samuel Clarke. Francis March, who was then in Jamaica, was sending money back to London for the maintenance of the four Ellis children and their aunt Anne Ellis, and he was now faced with the demand from Samuel Clarke to hand over Goddard’s share of the Sixteen Mile Walk Plantation. March told Clarke that the conveyance had not been completed but Clarke agreed to the conveyance going ahead on payment of the Ellis debt by March in person out of his own funds.

Meanwhile by about 1712 Susanna Cooke had died, and a man called John Hayward offered to buy out her son George Cooke’s share of Sixteen Mile Walk and his share of the Crawle Plantation and various other pieces of land, which had he succeeded would have seriously affected the value of the Ellis properties. So Francis March set out for England to get agreement from George Cooke in person to sell all this property to him. Again March paid for this from his own funds intending it for the benefit of his own family and about Christmas 1713 he travelled back to Jamaica and attempted to sell John Ellis’s “wastelands”, as requested under the terms of the will. He sold a small amount of land to Ezekial Gomersall, but could not find a buyer for the rest.

Francis March seems to have been a regular transatlantic traveller because in 1718 he again returned to England where in the meantime Anne Ellis had become administratrix of the Will of her sister-in-law Elizabeth Grace Ellis. The four Ellis children now being orphans their aunt Anne Ellis was named as their “next friend” and a group action was taken in the Court of Chancery to demand that Francis March should produce accounts of what had happened to the various Ellis properties. Many of March’s papers were still in Jamaica but he did produce a formal response and then returned to Jamaica in 1721.

By this time the two Ellis boys had reached the age of seventeen (the age at which they were to inherit) and their sister Mary had married John Manley who appears to have been somewhat older than the Ellis children and to have acted for them in their minority.

The Ellis family now took matters into their own hands and forcibly occupied all the property that had belonged to John Ellis senior, to his son Major John Ellis and to Carlton Goddard, including the land bought from George Cooke by Francis March with his own money! Moreover they also took possession of all the stock of slaves, cattle and equipment, and produce in the form of sugar and rum which March later valued at over £12,000 Jamaican currency and they took all the regular income from the plantations.

Having expelled Francis March they then exhibited a bill of complaint in the Jamaican Court of Chancery against him to which March duly responded. By this time the third John Ellis had died and the seized estates were being managed jointly by his younger brother George Ellis and John Manley.

Francis March was forced to sue for the money that he had laid out in paying for the land the second John Ellis had committed to purchasing from Carlton Goddard as well as paying off Goddard’s debt in order to secure the purchase. Moreover according to March the legacies due to Anne Ellis and to his two children as well as to the poor of the parish of St Catherine’s had still not been paid.

By this time Frances March had been in Jamaica on and off for many years and like so many colonists his health and that of his family was suffering. He sent his son ahead to England and prepared to leave the island with the rest of his family at which point the Ellis contingent threatened him with an injunction to prevent him leaving the island while what they claimed was a debt to them was still outstanding. This was a common procedure since it was not unusual for debtors to try to escape Jamaica leaving their debts behind them. Desperate to get back to England Francis March paid the Ellis family the amount that they had counterclaimed and left on a ship called the Resolution.

His troubles were far from over for the ship caught fire and March lost most of his possessions, including all his accounts and papers, and he and his family barely escaped with their lives. Back in London by 1724 John Manley was already dead as was Abigail Demetrius, George Ellis had reached the age of 21 and Francis March again attempted to enforce on George Ellis the payment of the legacies due under the Wills of his grandfather John Ellis and his father.

220px-Westminster_Hall Court of Chancery

Westminster Hall where the Court of Chancery sat
(source: Wikipedia)

Once again Frances March petitioned the Court of Chancery, this time in London, in an attempt to get the whole confused mess finally resolved by asking the Court to require George Ellis to agree to pay him £3794 Sterling, the amount he had disbursed on behalf of the Ellis family. Given the size of the profits from their estates their is no reason to assume they could not easily have afforded this.

Sadly I am not aware of any record to indicate that George Ellis did finally pay up.

Francis March died in about 1736 and the Ellis family continued to prosper in Jamaica acquiring further lands, including the Montpellier estate from Francis Sadler Hals who received it as reward for his efforts in the Maroon War settlement of 1739. There is a very good account of the Ellis family’s various holdings and acquisitions in Barry Higman’s book Montpelier Jamaica: A Plantation Community in Slavery and Freedom 1739-1912.

I wrote on a previous occasion about the fate of George Ellis’s son John Ellis and his two great nieces Anne Maria and Bathshua Herring Ellis, who were all lost at sea in the great storm of 1782 when two of his servants had an absolutely miraculous escape.

 

Note: I have to thank David M Oakley without whose hard work transcribing a key legal document this posting would not have been possible.

 

 

Scotts of Ireland, Jamaica, Dominica and Nova Scotia

Happy New Year

The New Year is a time for good resolutions and at least one blogger I have read recently has promised to post more often. I’m conscious that I have not posted regularly in recent months and will try to do better in 2015.

I shall begin with a correction.

One feature of genealogy is that it is never done, and too often evidence emerges that shows conclusions drawn in the past, which seemed reasonable at the time, to have been wrong. So it was that I was contacted by someone researching the Scott family who challenged my assumption that their earliest ancestor in Jamaica had been the Rev John Scott who was presented to the parish of St Catherine on 14 March 1720 and married Elizabeth Millner (possibly the daughter of Elizabeth Rose of Mickleton) the following year. That John Scott died in November 1734 and so could not have been the father of the Scott brothers who grew up alongside the Lee family (see the book A Parcel of Ribbons).

In fact it seems clear now that the Scott family who were prominent in Jamaica from the mid-eighteenth century had come from Ballingarry in north Tipperary, Ireland where Jeremiah Scott (who had fought at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690) settled in the time of William III. Jeremiah’s son – yet another John Scott – had a large family of at least ten children many of whom were mention in the Will of their sibling the Hon. John Scott of Jamaica, proved in 1776.

This John Scott had brothers who ventured out across the colonies, Michael to Grenada, George to Dominica and Joseph to Nova Scotia. George, who was a professional soldier, was appointed Governor of Grenada but then left to be Governor of Dominica where he was killed in a duel in 1767. Michael seems to have remained in Grenada and by the time of his brother John’s death was still in dispute with him about George’s Will. Other brothers, and several sisters remained in Ireland.

Joseph Scott went to Canada where he built himself a delightful manor house at Fort Sackville, Bedford, Nova Scotia on land that had belonged to brother George. It is one of the oldest houses in Nova Scotia and is now a museum.

Scott Manor House Nova Scotia 7093_Medium

Joseph traded in a variety of goods, including rum which presumably came via his brother John in Jamaica. He also had huge timber holdings and he may well have traded lumber back to Jamaica in return. He imported butter from Ireland which was also a popular item traded into Jamaica, although its rancid flavour by the time it reached the tropics was an acquired taste!

This spreading out of a group of brothers from the British Isles is typical of what happened in many families during the eighteenth century. As time went on the next generation would be more inclined to look east towards India, Sumatra and China rather than west to the Caribbean and North America.

Joseph Scott’s family became well established in Canada and he died there in 1800 leaving a substantial fortune and over 8000 acres to his second wife Margaret.

John Scott married two wives in Jamaica adding considerably to his lands in the process. His first wife Frances Mary Henderson brought him lands in Clarendon but died giving birth to her namesake in November 1755. His second marriage to Lucretia Favell Gregory consolidated his dynastic credentials since her family included Gregorys, Gallimores and Favells, all early settlers.

By the time his son Jack Scott returned from education in England in the late 1780s to take over management of the family estates they were among the wealthiest on the island, albeit Sir George Nugent did not think much of him. The Scotts owned the Retreat and Kensington Park plantations in St Thomas in the East and Clarendon Park in Clarendon, but Sir George called him ” a silly, vain, chattering blockhead who…constantly blabs out all that passes in Council” (Lady Nugent’s Journal p.315). His brother George had settled to the life of a landed gentleman in England and Matthew had a distinguished naval career becoming a Vice Admiral in 1819.

All three Scott brothers married daughters of the plantocracy, but in Jack’s case not before he had fathered mixed race children with at least three women in Jamaica. Of his thirteen known children only five were legitimate (the last born posthumously in 1814 six months after his father’s death), whereas all thirteen of his brother Matthew’s were. The Scotts maintained close contact with the Lee family throughout their lives – Jack wrote regularly from Jamaica to Richard Lee, Matt Scott settled his family in Devonshire Place just around the corner from Frances Lee, and General John Lee named Matt Scott as one of his executors.

There have been distinguished Scott descendants down the years, but in recent times perhaps the most notable is Lt.-Cmdr. Desmond Edward Patrick Dehany Scott who claimed Rockall for the Crown in 1955!

 

A Parcel of Ribbons now on Kindle

Parcel of Ribbons Front Cover V3 resized 300

The book A Parcel of Ribbons is now available on Amazon Kindle

 

You can of course still buy the paperback from Amazon or Lulu.com and other outlets which has the advantage of being a physical book and of having the index. Kindle format still does not support indexing although it does include the illustrations. The footnotes from the paperback are converted into endnotes for Kindle and I have made some minor corrections, mainly of typos. Some of these arose because I transcribed many of the letters using Dragon Naturally Speaking software, which is extremely impressive (no I don’t have shares!) but occasionally produces some oddities, a few of which I missed when proof reading.

One piece of information not in my possession when I wrote the book was that Robert Lee junior did not die at Lisbon as much later members of the Bevan family believed but in fact, like two of his brothers before him, shot himself. It is no wonder that Favell Bourke Lee, by then Mrs David Bevan, sought consolation in evangelical religion. For three out of six siblings to die by their own hand was a terrible burden for the family to have to bear.

Despite this shadow that fell over the family in the nineteenth century, their eighteenth century letters remain full of life, hope and insight into the interactions between Britain and Jamaica and the lives led in London by returning colonists.

A Family Saga and A Theatrical Disaster

The falling of the New Brunswick Theatre, 28 February 1828

An imagined vision of the Brunswick Theatre collapse – hand coloured print

 

I have written before about the descendants of Scudamore Winde, the close friend of Robert Cooper Lee after whom he named his youngest son.

Scudamore Winde made his fortune as a merchant in Jamaica, but elected to remain there until his death rather than returning to England. He made generous provision for his illegitimate children – Robert whose mother was a slave and Penelope, John and Thomas the children of Sarah Cox, who was probably a free Negro. John died young and Thomas elected to work as a merchant in Kingston like his father. Robert became a merchant in London and Penelope in due course married David Steel, bringing with her a handsome dowry.

David Steel began life as a barrister, but his father (also David) ran an important printing business publishing nautical charts, and when he died in 1799 his son took over the business. David Steel bibliogDavid Steel senior had an interest in the theatre, and indeed probably a rather close interest in the wardrobe mistress Ann James, who with her four children was left well provided for at his death! In the last decade of the 18th century David Steel senior bought the Royalty Theatre, situated in Well Street running parallel to Wellclose Square in the East End of London.

The Royalty had been built for the actor manager John Palmer who ran into difficulties over the licensing of the premises, because at the time only a limited handful of ‘patent’ theatres were permitted to perform plays. The remainder were licensed on an annual basis to put on musical entertainment, ballet, and the increasingly popular melodramas. In this they were the predecessors of the music halls. Some also, such as Philip Astley’s Amphitheatre, had performances which prefigured modern circus.

When David Steel senior died he left his shares in the theatre equally to his daughter Elizabeth and his son David. Royalty Theatre

David senior also had a sister called Hannah who in 1784 married Thomas Maurice. They had a son David Samson Maurice. After Hannah died in 1788 Thomas Maurice left England for America where he set up as a merchant in Albany, New York and appears never to have returned to England. His son was apprenticed to a printer under the guardianship of David Steel senior, and it seems likely that Elizabeth Steel, who never married, stood in place of a mother to David Samson Maurice.

In January 1803 David Steel junior died at his house in Union Row, Little Tower Hill, which was also the premises for the printing business. In his Will he left his wife Penelope the option of either selling the business or, if she preferred, continuing to run it in her own right, and this she chose to do, keeping the business afloat for the sake of her for surviving children. Three and a half years later she married William Mason, and with him had a son called William Scudamore Mason who died as an infant, by which time Penelope was about forty.

Nothing seems to be known about William Mason who must have died before 1818, when Penelope married for the third time to Stanley Goddard who was about twenty years younger than she was. Her marriage to Mason may have had something to do with the family row that caused her eldest son David Lee Steel to leave home, since from 1810 onwards he no longer lived at Union Row in his mother’s house. He died in May 1818 at the relatively young age of thirty.

Penelope’s second son Scudamore Winde Steel began what would be a distinguished career in the Indian army in 1805. Her two daughters Penelope Sarah and Ann remained at home. In 1820 Stanley Goddard was declared bankrupt and the printing business which had been variously known as D.Steel, P.Steel, P.Mason, Steel & Co., Steel & Goddard and Steel, Goddard & Co, and had moved from Union Row to Cornhill not long after Penelope’s marriage to William Mason was sold to J. W. Norie & Co, which already had an established business in Leadenhall.

Penelope must have retained some money in her own right, or else the sale of the business the house and the furniture cleared Stanley Goddard’s debts and left them still with some money, for when she died in 1840 Penelope was living at 14 Euston Place, a pleasant address on the south side of what is now Euston Road opposite Euston Square. The elegant terminus for the London and Birmingham Railway was opened just three years before her death.

A particular feature of that first Euston station was its beautiful iron roof. Euston_Station_showing_wrought_iron_roof_of_1837 resized 250Iron roofs had been in use since the late 18th century, and the 19th century railway stations created many of the most beautiful ones.

However it was a wrought iron roof which brought tragedy to Penelope’s daughter Ann.

Ann Steel married her cousin David Samson Maurice in 1824. In 1826 the Royalty Theatre burnt down. It was sadly common for theatres to be destroyed by fire. In this instance it was not due to the spectacular special effect of the eruption of Mount Etna at that evening’s performance, but to gas lights at the side of the stage which had not been properly turned off after the performance and which set light to some scenery. The man whose responsibility it was to tend the furnace that created the gas spotted the fire late in the evening and was able to rouse the family who lived on site and get them out. But by the time he had gone next door to wake the landlord of the Black Horse the flames were already bursting out of the stage door into the street. It was only the collapse of the roof, which helped to dampen the flames, that prevented the fire spreading to the adjacent sugar refinery in Dock Street and the many houses of ill repute serving sailors from the docks.

Following a payout on the fire insurance Elizabeth Steel made the theatre site over to David Samson Maurice and gave him the £6,000 insurance money with which he decided to rebuild the theatre. Together with an ambitious partner Richard Carruthers, who combined wholesale haberdashery with selling a patent fluid for lubricating carriage axles, he sold shares in the new Brunswick Theatre to raise the necessary capital of about £20,000.

Building work began on 3 August 1827, and the walls went up with astonishing speed, tied together with temporary wooden beam that were removed when the iron roof went on. The architect was Stedman Whitwell, and he produced a splendid design combining classical Greek with Egyptian styles sculpted in cement on the brick frontage. Brunswick Theatre resized 250Natural light was let into the theatre through a series of tall narrow openings in the front wall filled with a glazed iron lattice. Particular attention was paid to fireproofing the building, with stone staircases, gas lighting rather than candles, water piped through the walls (presumably to provide an early form of fire fighting) and a wrought iron roof. Whitwell seems not to have known much about the actual workings of the theatre (unlike David Maurice who was said to enjoy amateur theatricals) and arrangements were made for him to visit Drury Lane Theatre to see how the flies were constructed and the theatre machinery installed.

Whitwell claimed afterwards that his brief extended only to completing the shell of the building which was roofed over in haste in order to meet the licensing deadline in October, with the intention of being open for the first performance at the end of December. It proved impossible to meet this deadline and a new date was scheduled for the end of January. On the 26 January David and Ann Maurice’s elder son was buried at St Botolph Aldgate aged just twenty-one months.

The theatre finally opened on Monday 25 February to a full house of about 3000, with a second performance on the Tuesday. Work fitting out the interior was still continuing on the Wednesday in expectation of the next performance on Thursday. On the Monday there had been a problem when the scenery flats would not slide in the grooves of the flies which had dropped on one side. All the weight of the flies, the theatre machinery and the painters and carpenters workshops, amounting some estimated to 100 tons, was hung from the wrought iron roof, as was common practice in theatres with timber roofs. Whitwell was there on the Monday when instructions were given to crank up the flies by throwing a chain over a tie beam, and a similar process was gone through on the Tuesday after the flies had dropped on the other side. It was assumed that the scenery had swollen slightly due to the damp – after all the building had been given no time at all to dry out and it was winter.

On Thursday 28 February David Maurice and his friend William Evans, a former editor of the Bristol Observer, left Anne Maurice to go and visit friends and went to the theatre where rehearsals were in progress. There were about 80 people in the theatre including dancers, actors, musicians, gas fitters, roofers, and carpenters. Some were in the dressing rooms and the Green Room under the stage, some on the stage, others were right up at the top of the building. Shortly after half past eleven an odd rumbling was heard, there was a sound as if something had been dropped in the carpenters’ workshop above the auditorium, but no one paid any attention. Then there was a sharp crack like a firecracker followed by two or three more and the entire roof collapsed down into the building pushing the front wall out into the street.

Brunswick collapse resized 450

David Maurice was killed but his partner Richard Carruthers survived. In all fifteen people died, although the last of those severely injured did not die at the London Hospital until the end of April. Two of the victims had been passers-by in the street but there were many miraculous escapes. A group of carpenters were persuaded by one of them not to try to flee but to remain on the staircase (which you can see in this print was tied into the south-east corner of the building) while the slates and beams cascaded around them – all of them survived. Many people were dug out of the wreckage and in many ways the hero of the day was the Reverend George Smith. An ex-Navy man who had fought at the Battle of Copenhagen he organised the initial rescue attempts, later in the afternoon assisted by Philip Hardwick who brought over a large number of men from St Catherine’s Dock to help. By the middle of Friday all the victims had been accounted for.

A fund was initiated for the support of the survivors, a number of families had lost their chief breadwinner, many workmen had lost all their tools and both actors and workmen were expecting to be paid on the Saturday. Destitution threatened them. The landlord of the Star Inn, which lost its front wall, was ruined because he was on a repairing lease.

George Smith wrote an immediate and very vivid account of the events (he was an enthusiastic evangelical and inveterate pamphleteer) and the inquest was a protracted affair lasting for many weeks. The ultimate verdict of the jury was that the roof had collapsed because of the weight of the flies and theatre machinery suspended from it. I suspect that the filling of a large lead cistern in the painters shop above the stage shortly before the accident may have been the final straw. There was of course a great deal of interest in the disaster not simply because so many had died, and so many more would have died had it happened a few hours later, but because of the innovative technology used in the wrought iron roof.

Poor Ann Maurice who had lost both her child and her husband in the space of a month found herself in serious financial difficulty. In September 1828 the newspapers reported that she had decided not to rebuild the theatre and the site was sold to George Smith and a group of trustees who created the very first purpose-built mariners asylum to provide shelter food and clothing for seamen and to protect them from the corrupt practices of crimping.

Ann was clearly made of the same tough stuff as her mother Penelope for she carried on the printing business on her own account. Eighteen months after the tragedy she remarried to Robert Edgar, the brother of a man who had worked for her first husband. Edgar, a wine merchant,  was declared bankrupt in 1834 and died six years later (both Ann and her mother seem to have had better business sense than their husbands) but Ann continued in business until the late 1850s when she retired, dying at Kilburn in 1868.

Ann’s son Richard Lee Steel died young and his widow took her family to America, where descendants still live today. Her daughter Eliza married the widower of her own cousin Mary Steel (Anglo-Indian daughter of Scudamore Winde Steel) – he died soon after and she brought up his two surviving children. Ann’s other son Robert Edgar worked as a writer for the Reuters Telegraph Agency as did his son. Their descendants still live in England, almost certainly quite unaware of their connections to a theatrical disaster and a black heritage in Jamaica.

 

NOTE ON SOURCES:
I have to thank Yuri, a reader of this website, for alerting me to Penelope Winde’s third marriage and the history of her publishing house. It was while looking further at her family that I came across the story of the ill-fated Brunswick theatre.
Most of the images displayed here have been taken from a wonderful scrapbook about the disaster compiled about the beginning of the twentieth century and now in the possession of the East London Theatre Archive. There and in some other places the theatre is referred to as the Royal Brunswick.
This blog includes a full version of the story of the disaster written some years later by Charles Dickens, which drew upon the many press reports of the disaster and the lengthy inquest.
Other sources include:
A Bibliography of the Works Written and Published by David Steel by Mario Witt, Greenwich Maritime Monographs, 1991.
A Directory of Printers and Other Allied Trades London & Vicinity 1800-1840 by William B Todd, Printing Historical Society, 1972.
George Charles Smith of Penzance : from Nelson Sailor to Mission Pioneer by Roald Kverndal, William Carey Library 2012.

Down the rabbit hole

rabbit_hole_by_detea-d5ob1id resized 350

Rabbit hole art from Deviant Art

It is remarkably easy to head off down a genealogical rabbit hole and, following a trail you believe will lead in one direction, find yourself arriving by quite another route.

A case in point relates to a Chancery document I recently requested from the National Archives because it referred both to a family called Bayly and a John Augier. I have wanted for a long time to establish who was the John Augier who was father of the remarkable Augier sisters about whom I have written before. The spelling of Bayly is an unusual one and I already knew of Zachary Bayly, the uncle of the Jamaican historian Bryan Edwards,who had extensive connections with Jamaica. In addition the Bayly family in the Chancery case came from Bristol, a city with extensive trading and slavery connections, and not far from the Wiltshire roots of Zachary Bayly. So far so good.

The Chancery case dated 1717 was a complex one and, like many cases within Jamaica, made the more so by the deaths of most of the protagonists! Put as simply as I can John Rowe of Bristol was suing for the inheritance of his dead son, a minor also called John Rowe. The child’s mother was Mary Bayly the daughter of Samuel Bayly whose other children were Anne and Richard. In her Will written about 1703 Mary Grant, the Bayly girls grandmother left them a substantial inheritance in money, Plate and furniture. She made various provisions for how the money was to be divided in the event of the deaths of either of the young women and for Mary’s son John Rowe. The Trustees in the various Wills involved included several of the Bayly brothers and their cousin Thomas Weare (like his cousins a mercer).

Samuel Bayly was a mercer of the City of Bristol and his brothers were also mercers and linen drapers. His brother Richard was also a soap boiler. John Rowe senior’s case was that Richard Bayly had claimed to be insolvent and so offered to pay only twelve shillings in the pound to his creditors, which included the Trust fund. He believed that Richard Bayly had in fact paid some of his creditors in full. Rowe said that Samuel Bayly had promised to make good any deficiency on behalf of young John Rowe, but had not done so before his death in about 1708 despite owning considerable property at Henbury about five miles from Bristol.

Meanwhile Samuel’s son Richard Bayly had married Mary Hayes and then died leaving her free to marry John Augier. John Rowe’s contention was that the various Trustees of the legacy of Mary Grant had conspired together with John Augier to pretend that Richard Bayly senior’s business had failed and hence to defraud the only descendant entitled to that legacy – the now dead John Rowe junior. Since John Rowe senior was administrator of his infant son’s  property, and indeed would inherit anything he left, he was effectively suing on his own behalf! Moreover in addition to the various items left by Mary Grant he also claimed that John Augier and his wife had taken a bed from a house in Bristol High Street to which John Rowe was entitled.

If you would like to read the full details of the case I have transcribed the document because although it is not a Jamaica suit it is probably fairly typical of the kinds of arguments that arose when estates went unadministered and legatees died before claiming their inheritance. At the very least John Rowe was requesting that the Court should enforce the provision of evidence by those he was suing to demonstrate what had happened to the property and to provide full accounts for the expenses. For example Rowe claimed that more had apparently been spent on his mother-in-law’s funeral than the fifty pounds she had specified in her Will.

Reading some of the Bayly family Wills it seems likely that they were telling the truth about the failure of Richard Bayly’s business and that Samuel Bayly had tried to make some kind of provision for little John Rowe. Whether Richard Bayly had actually lost some of the Trust fund fraudulently propping up his failing business we will never know.

And what about the Jamaican connections I had been searching for? I have so far failed to link this Bayly merchant family in Bristol with the family of Zachary Bayly, which is not to say such a link may not exist. But certainly the John Augier cited in the case is not the John Augier who died in Jamaica about 1720.

However it turns out there is a Jamaica connection.

The Bayly brothers had a sister called Mary who married the wonderfully named Uzziel Bussell. Uzziel had a father William Bussell, a Bristol baker, who died about February 1679/80 and in his Will (not proved until after the death of Uzziel in 1695) mentioned his brother Edmund in Jamaica. William did not sign his Will but made his mark and so was either illiterate or too ill to be able sign and therefore it is reasonable to assume that his brother’s name should have been Edward. For one of the original settlers in Jamaica was Edward Bussell. There is some evidence that the Bussell family may have been non-conformists and so may have left England at the Restoration, having been on the ‘wrong’ side in the Civil War.

Edward Bussell and his wife Grace had seven children baptised in the parish of St Andrew between 1666 and 1681. Edward was recorded as owning eleven acres of land in the first survey of Jamaica in 1670 and there is also a grant of 60 acres to ‘Francis Bussell and Smith’. Edward’s son William lived to grow up, married and had at least one child, another William baptised in 1682. There are eight Bussell burials in St Andrew between 1689 and 1702, and although it is impossible to distinguish father from son and mother from daughter where they share the same name, it seems likely that Edward died in 1693 and his wife in 1702.

Although there were Bussells in Jamaica in the nineteenth century the probability is that the early settler family had died out by the first decade of the eighteenth century, as had so many of the first colonists. Whether their connection with the Bayly family of Bristol is in any way related to the decision made by Zachary Bayly to go there half a century later remains to be discovered.

And I am still searching for the origins of John Augier!

 

 

Dehany – Goodin and a plea for help

 

Firstly let me thank Pamela Miller both for getting in touch and for providing a lot of new information about the Dehany and Goodin families, and for letting me post it here for the benefit of other researchers.

Pamela also has a plea for help in return –Does anyone know the whereabouts, or have a copy of, the Will of George Goodin who died in 1739 ?

Pamela was contacted by someone wanting help which led her back to this website and to query my information which shows David Dehany having married Mary Gregory, information which I know also appears elsewhere.

On the contrary Pamela believes David’s wife was Mary Goodin, the daughter of George Goodin – not Mary Gregory.    George Goodin’s will was challenged by his granddaughter, ”Mrs. Thomas Hall.”  In my records, David and Mary (Gregory) Dehany’s daughter Mary married Thomas Hall.  Pamela’s research by contrast points to Mary Gregory as the wife of George Dehany, the son of David Dehany and Mary Goodin.

She writes, ”I was able to view the microfilm of the original document and took these notes:

Barnett-Hall Collection, MSS 220,

Mandeville Special Collections Library, UCSD

Box 3 Folder 28 (microfilm)

1763, Case

[Written on the outside/pm]

Geo. Goodwin’s [sic/pm] will. His granddaughter “Molly” Mrs. Thos. Hall For Mr. Amblers Opinion

[Inside/pm]

George Goodin [sic/pm] late of the Island of Jamaica, Esq.r deced was in his Lifetime seized and possessed of a very considerable Real and Property….[made his lawful will…”giving several Legacies” not listed/pm]

He gives and Disposes of the Rest and Residue of his Estate in the following words:

“Item all the rest reside and remainder of my Estate both Real Personal or [mixed?] of what Kind or Nature soever and not herein before disposed of I Give, Devise and Bequeath unto Fife Elletson one of the Sons of my Daughter Sarah Elletson at his Arrival to the Age of Twenty one Years or Day of marriage….[if he dies with no heirs] then I Give the same and every Part thereof to my Daughter Sarah Elletson during her Widowhood. And from and immediately after her Marriage or Death then I Give Devise and Bequeath the same and every Part thereof between my Daughter Mary Dehany’s surviving children To hold to them their Heirs and assigns for ever Part and Share alike.”

[Notes continued/pm]

George Goodin died soon after the making his will.

Fife Elletson died before he arrived his Age of 21 years and without issue.

Sarah Elletson is still living. [1763/pm]

Mrs. Dehany at the Death of Mr. Goodin had the foll.g children

George Dehany…..Living

David Dehany…..Since dead having made his will whereby he devises all his Reversion or Shar which he had or might have in George Goodins the Testators Bequest to his wife Dorothy.

Mary…….The wife of Thos. Hall Esq. Since dead leaving issue

Phillip Dehany……now living

Ann…..The wife of James Herr, Esq. now living.

Goodin Dehany…..Dead — Intestate and without issue.

After the Death of Mr. Goodin ___ Mrs. Dehany had another Son named Hugh who died a Minor and Intestate and without issue.

[The remainder is the merits of the case and decision of Mr. Ambler, 28 Nov. 1763/pm]

The children named as Mary Goodin Dehany’s children in this “Challange” match the names of David Dehany’s children in his 1754 will.

Pamela also wants to highlight that the Barnett Hall collection is now available on-line.

Pamela has documented Mary Goodin in her Cavalier Family Tree which she stresses (as I always do too!) is a work in progress. I sometimes think the genealogist’s work is never done!

Here is back story that Pamela also sent me:

I have researched my ancestors, William Ricketts and his wife Mary Goodwin of Canaan, Westmoreland, Jamaica, for more years than I care to admit to.

There has been much controversy over Mary’s last name….Goodwin or Goodin or Gooden or Gooding….are they variations of the same family name or distinct families?  [As you see in my transcription of the original document above, it seems to be intermingled.  I began researching before documents were commonly transcribed and know that names/words were commonly shortened within the text.  I believe Goodwin was shortened to Good’n in lengthy documents and later interpreted as Goodin…and possibly adopted by some family members….just my opinion.]

My 7-great grandfather, William Ricketts’ will of 1734 names his cousin George Goodin, Esq. of the Island of Jamaica as the executor of his estate there.  Many years ago, I found a transcription of the 1735 will of Col. John Cavalier which contained several names that I knew to be associated with the Ricketts/Goodwin family….including George Goodin.    I built a “Cavalier Family Tree” on Ancestry.com in an attempt to sort out who was who and how were they related.  I was fortunate to find several wills that clearly explain relationships.  They are included in my tree….other information is from other Ancestry.com members and may or may not be accurate….I am careful to cite my sources for others’ reference.

I found the George Goodin mentioned in Col. Cavalier’s will. Col. Cavalier’s niece, Mary Sharp married George Goodin (parents of Mary Goodin Dehany.) But I don’t know if he is the George Goodin mentioned in William Ricketts’ will….there is another George Robert Goodin whose will was written in 1799.  And there is the Major George Robert Goodin who is named as the brother of Judith Goodin who married Edward Barrett. [“The Family of the Barrett” by Jeannette Marks.]

More information about the family comes from the Will of David Dehany, and Pamela has made some comments on this which are given after this abbreviated transcription.

David Dehany, of the parish of Hanover, Island of Jamaica, planter. Will dated 17 Aug. 1753. My son George Dehany, planter, £1000 currency. My son David D. £400 c. yearly. My dau. Mary Hall* £1500 c. My dau. Ann D, £4000 c, My son Goodin D. £100 c. yearly. My wife Mary3  slaves. My son Philip I give that estate joining on the E. side of Lucea Harbour with the estate called Barbican joining on the E. side of Masqueta Cove, with the works, negros, cattle and stock, also 2000 acres at Negercat in the parish of Westmoreland, now a pen, also the houses and stores at Savanna Lamar and Savanna Lamar Savanna, which I bought of Francis Blake as attorney to Richard Dunn Lawrence and of Margaret George, also two parcells of land in Hanover, the one joining on Sir Henry Morgan’s run now in the possession of Julian Beckford, Esq., the other joining on the E. side of Fatthogg quarter Harbour and that part of Sir Henry Morgan’s I possess called Shew. My sister Martha Corbett the 150 acres she lives on joining E. on William Bucknor and W. on Philip Anglin, deceased, for her life, then to go to George James, son to George & Mary James, deceased, and William Wren, son to James and Patian Wren. All residue to my son Philip, if he die without issue all the estate equally to my 3 sons and 2 daus.  My son Philip sole Executor.  My wife Mary,  Philip Haughton, Sr., of Hanover, John Reed and Thomas Hall of the parish of St. James, Esquires, Trustees and Overseers. Witnessed by Gn. Castelfranc, Peter Archibald Jameson, James Findlater. On 22 June 1754 was sworn P. A. Jameson before Charles Knowles. A true Copy. T. Hay, Secretary. Proved 25 Oct.1754 by Philip D. the son. (P.C.C., 271, Pinfold.)

Comment:  Jonathan Haughton (b. 1667, Barbados) is believed to have married Mary Dehany (Parents unknown.)  Jonathan and Mary had a son, Philip Haughton, (1700 to 1765) and a son Richard Haughton (1691 – 1740.)  Richard Haughton married Elizabeth Goodin (1700 – 1734) the daughter of George Goodin and Mary Sharpe.  (See Col. John Cavalier’s will)  Elizabeth Goodin was the sister of Mary Goodin (1702 – 1761) who married David Dehany.  Elizabeth Goodin and Richard Haughton’s daughter Mary Haughton married John Reid in 1734 per Archer.  Mary Dehany, Daughter of David Dehaney married Thomas Hall./pm

(/pm=Pamela Miller)

Once again, many thanks to Pamela for sharing all her hard work.

The Allen Family of Glasgow & Inchmartine

Fortiter-Henry Howard Allen

Arms granted to John Allen in 1779 and matriculated to Henry Howard Allen in 1878
(Crown Copyright) Courtesy of Jonathan Allan

It has been some time since I last uploaded a family tree, and last week I added an extended and updated version of the Allen family of Glasgow, whose details can also be found along with the associated Scott, Dehany, Gregory and Welch families.

I revisited the Allens following a query I received, and it occurred to me that they provide a good model of what happens to a particular kind of middle class merchant and professional family during the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Looking at them may provide clues if you are researching a similar family of your own.

John Allen, who was the business partner and close friend of Robert Cooper Lee, came from a Glasgow merchant family and probably went to Jamaica about 1750 or thereabouts, like so many young men in search of fortune. Lucky enough to survive the unhealthy conditions there, he returned to Britain with his wife Favell Dehany in the 1770s, and two sons were born to them in London. John Allen was godfather to Robert Cooper Lee’s son Matthew Allen Lee while in Jamaica, and Robert Cooper Lee and his wife Priscilla named their last child Favell after John Allen’s wife. John Allen’s first son was named John Lee Allen.

The_Allen_Brothers sized 256

There is a delightful portrait of this boy with his younger brother James, painted in the 1790s by Henry Raeburn and now housed in the Kembell Art Museum, Fort Worth, Texas (source: Wikimedia Commons).

John Allen suffered badly from asthma and in January 1795 Margaret Grant, a mutual friend, wrote to the Lee family:

With the deepest concern I take up my pen to inform you, that our dear friend Mr Allen is no more.  They returned from a short excursion they had made to Glasgow on Saturday last; that night he was seized with a severe attack of the Astmah which though alleviated by medical aid did not yield to it and joined to some internal malady, which the force of medicine, or human skill could not reach, at ¼ past eleven yesterday morning proved fatal.

His disconsolate Widow and her dear Boys are with me, she wonderfully calm and collected under her severe loss, the more so as so unexpected, at least by her.  May the Almighty support and protect her and her Boys.  [A Parcel of Ribbons, p.318]

The family were left very well off, for John Allen had bought the Inchmartine and Errol estates in Perthshire on his return from Jamaica. Sadly the house that John Allen knew was destroyed by fire in 1874 and the current Errol Park dates from 1875-7. John Lee Allen worked to improve the estate.

The farm-buildings have been much improved, and draining has been carried to a considerable extent; embankments have been also constructed for protecting the low lands from the inundations of the Tay. The principal of these was completed by Mr. Allen in 1836, when about 100 acres were reclaimed from the river, now forming some of the richest land on his estate; the embankment is forty feet wide at the base, and two feet on the summit, and is eleven feet high; the lower portion of the bank, to the height of four feet, consists of a wall of dry stones, and the upper of earth and reeds intermixed with stones. A second embankment has been more recently constructed by Captain Allen, R.N., on a similar plan, to the east of Port-Allen, and of greater extent than the former to the west of the port; and in process of time, by continuing these embankments, a very large portion of most valuable land will be added to the farms contiguous to the river.  (source: http://perthshire.blogspot.co.uk/2007/12/errol-perthshire-scotland.html)

Two of John Lee Allen’s sons went into the Royal Navy and the youngest appears to have migrated to Canada. The nineteenth century saw many families bidding farewell to members who sought fortune overseas, but now instead of the West Indies eyes turned either to India or to the new colonies in South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

John Lee Allen’s brother James, who was a Lieutenant Colonel in the 23rd Lancers, married the daughter of a Colonel in the East India Company. It was their son Henry Howard Allen who completed the matriculation of the family coat of Arms, and who by then was resident in England at least as much as in Scotland. His eldest brother James Vaughan Allen had died young, in Brussels of cholera, leaving a young widow Barbara Elrington Douglas who married twice more, but separated from her third husband possibly because she blamed him for the death of her epileptic son following an argument with his step father. She settled in Norway where she led a very interesting life farming, writing books and cohabiting with a translator called Oluf Endresen. However towards the end of the nineteenth century the money that paid her annuity from the Inchmartine estate was running out and sadly she ended her life in poverty.

The line from James Allen dies out by the end of the nineteenth century, with all his descendants either unmarried or childless, but the descendants of John Lee Allen were more numerous and by the late nineteenth century he had grandchildren and great grandchildren in Australia, where three of the children of Commander Henry Murray Edward Allen had settled.

The pattern of descent and settlement from John Allen and his Jamaican wife Favell Dehany shows many features common to similar families of the period. First successful colonists return home from Jamaica and invest their acquired wealth in their mother country, often with property in several places. Their sons have careers in the Army or Navy and marry well, into upper class or aristocratic families. Some of their children die young (but not nearly as many as in previous centuries) and some do not marry or are childless. A few carry on the family line, but seek to make their fortunes in the newly developing colonies and eventually settle there.

My mother’s family followed a similar pattern with sons in the Indian Army and Indian Army medical Corps during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, then others who tried for new lives in America and South Africa before settling in Australia and New Zealand. Such migration was often driven by the need to provide for the larger families resulting from reduced infant mortality, and from periods of agricultural depression in the UK.

So if you cannot find your family members where you expect them to be, look away from their geographical origins. If you are searching online widen your search terms to include other geographical areas. Look at records from India held by the British Library, check passenger lists for ships travelling between Britain and her expanding Empire, above all do not be surprised by the degree of geographical mobility of our ancestors.

The Allen family, who began as Glasgow merchants, had members who made a fortune in the West Indies; they settled in Canada, Norway, Australia and New Zealand, and have descendants still in the UK today.

Jamaican Christmas & John Canoe

 

 

John Canoe 1 resized 350

Christmas in Jamaica before emancipation was one of the few periods in the year when slaves were able to enjoy themselves, free for a brief period from work. If they were lucky they received extra rations of food and possibly cloth or clothing for the coming year, as was the custom for servants in England.

There were John Canoe processions, (variously written as Johnny Canoe, Junkanoo and Koo Koo, possibly from the French l’inconnu – the unknown- or perhaps of West African derivation) which are the origins of the modern carnival. The two pictures shown here, painted by the artist Belisario and published in 1837, represent the actors who were competing for their costume and group of friends to be picked to lead the festivities. By this time the costumes were more elaborate, and less fearsome, than those described half a century earlier by Edward Long.

Long, whose History of Jamaica was published in 1774, wrote that

In the towns, during Christmas holidays, they have several tall robust fellows dressed up in grotesque habits, and a pair of ox-horns on their head, sprouting from the top of a horrid sort of vizor, or mask, which about the mouth is rendered very terrific with large boar tusks. The masquerader, carrying a wooden sword in his hand, is followed with a numerous crowd of drunken women, who refresh him frequently with a sup of aniseed water, whilst he dances at every door, bellowing out John Connu! with great vehemence…this dance is probably an honourable memorial of John Conny, a celebrated cabocero at Tres Puntas, in Axim, on the Guiney coast; who flourished about the year 1720.

 

John Canoe 2 resized 350

There were also more local celebrations. On Christmas Eve 1812 the Moravian missionary John Becker wrote, Scarcely was our worship closed, before the heathen negroes on the estate began to beat their drums, to dance, and to sing, in a most outrageous manner. The noise lasted all night, and prevented us from falling asleep.

The following day he wrote: After breakfast, I went down and begged the negroes to desist, but their answer was:’What, Massa, are we not to dance and make merry at Christmas. We always did so. ‘ I represented to them that this was not the way to celebrate the birth of our Saviour. and expressed my surprise, that having heard the word of God for so many years, they still continued their heathenish customs. But all I could say was in vain… (quoted in Braithwaite, The Development of Creole Society in Jamaica, pp.227-8).

In England, since medieval times, masters had allowed their servants licence over the Christmas period to let off steam.There can be little doubt that the Christmas festivities for the slaves in Jamaica performed a similar function – the one time in the year when they were free to enjoy themselves as they chose, to sing and dance and eat, and for a brief period perhaps forget their situation.

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For those of you spending part of your Christmas holiday on family history research, you may like to know that the invaluable Jamaican Family Search website is now entirely free to use. Patricia Jackson, who set up the site fourteen years ago had always hoped to be able to make it free. Recently she wrote, “Those who have paid subscriptions in the past enabled me to purchase microfilms, microfiche, electronic images, or photocopies of documents and registers, not only from Jamaica but from archives or libraries in England and the United States. I spent thousands of hours transcribing information from them to put on the site, often working up to 50 hours a week (so much for a part-time job!).” If you have not already discovered her site I can warmly recommend it.

Also free and with many useful articles and website lists is Genealogy In Time Magazine. This site helps to fund itself by receiving small fees from Amazon if you click through from the links on their home page to purchase something on any one of the main Amazon sites. A recent article addresses the question of just how popular is genealogy and examines the statistics comparing internet traffic to the most popular sites and distinguishing between the occasional researcher and those of us who become obsessive!

However you choose to spend the Christmas period, may I thank all of you who have been in touch or have bought my book, and wish everyone a very Happy Christmas and a peaceful New Year.

 

Snails and Serendipity

Snail Milk Water

 

So much of extending my historical knowledge has depended on serendipity.

This week I was in London for a meeting and hoping to be able to visit the Tate afterwards. However the meeting over-ran and, because it was closer to St Pancras where I catch my train, I went instead to the Georgians Revealed Exhibition at the British Library. It is full of fascinating images and objects demonstrating the way in which the Georgians shaped modern Britain. One of the highlights for me was the huge map of Georgian London making up the floor of the final room of the exhibition. I can spend hours looking at maps – and often do!

Afterwards I browsed through the books and souvenir objects for sale, which included among the usual mugs and posters a complete high head white wig for those wishing to dress the part! And among the books I came across a small volume that looked interesting, containing Georgian household cures and remedies.

And here I discovered a Jamaican connection, for the original book had come down through the Biscoe and Tyndale-Biscoe families to its present custodian Nicola Lillie. Some readers may remember the story I told not long after starting this website of the court case involving Joseph Biscoe and his runaway wife Susanna.

Joseph Biscoe’s aunt by marriage, Elizabeth Ambler (Mrs Elisha Biscoe) was the original owner of the ‘Physick Book’ in which she, her friends and later generations recorded their recipes for various potions for easing or curing everything from the bite of a mad dog to fits, bladder stones, gout, coughs and indigestion. Marilyn Yurdan worked with the author to provide the medical historical background, and although some recipes would be fairly easy to make now, it really is a case of ‘Don’t try this at home’ when you encounter Nurse Payne’s Receipt for a Sore Throat in the Small Pox containing rock alum and white dog turd! Given that as little as one ounce of alum can kill an adult (not to mention the dog turd), this is not one to copy.

Nor are we likely to want to make use of woodlice, earthworms and snails, all of which were favourite eighteenth century ingredients.

More benign is a recipe to make Lavender Water by simmering lavender flowers in cider; and a Tincture for Gout and Colick in Stomach was made using raisins, rhubarb, senna, coriander, fennel, cochineal, saffron and liquorish infused in brandy. My guess is that the rhubarb and senna would have made it effective for constipation if not for gout. Increased prosperity in the eighteenth century leading to a diet rich in red meat and other high protein items such as turtle, taken together with rich red wines, made gout the classic Georgian complaint.

Besides reproducing the recipes, the book explains what the various ingredients were – how many of us now would recognise Burgundy Pitch, mithridate or Balsam of Tolu? even if we could safely identify coltsfoot, ox-eye daisies or camomile. To take us through these forgotten ingredients each recipe has its own glossary and an explanation of its intended use or the problem it was intended to ease.

It is also a beautifully produced little book with a short, illustrated history of the Ambler Biscoe family and woodcut illustrations of the various herbs and other ingredients.

Although the eighteenth century family name was Biscoe, in the mid-nineteenth century it became Tyndale-Biscoe (after the Biscoe name had been lost for a time through a female line of descent) and some readers may know the lovely Historic Jamaica from the Air by David Buisseret, in which the photographs were taken by Jack Tyndale-Biscoe.

There is a large bequest of papers, maps, documents and photographs relating to Jamaica made by Jack Tyndale-Biscoe and his wife in the Jamaica Archives in Spanish Town – you can read the details of what was donated in Kenneth E. Ingram’s University of the West Indies publication Manuscript Sources for the West Indies. The collection also includes genealogical information on the Morrison, Duff and Dallas families of Jamaica and the Branch and deFreitas families of St Lucia.

In addition to their connection with Jamaica, the eighteenth century Biscoe family also owned plantations on St Kitts. There are records for the slave ownership of Stephana and William Biscoe (widow and son of Joseph Biscoe) in Jamaica on the Legacies of British Slave-ownership website.

Not for the first time I have been impressed by just how intertwined was the history of Jamaica with the huge changes that went on throughout the eighteenth century.

Lavender Water & Snail Syrup: Miss Ambler’s Household Book of Georgian Cures and Remedies, Nicola Lille & Marilyn Yurdan with illustrations by Laura Lillie, The History Press, Stroud, 2013. ISBN 978-0-7524-8995-7

A Year in Jamaica – Book Review

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For anyone with an interest in Jamaica and its history this enchanting memoir is a must read, and a great Christmas present.

Diana Lewes was the pen name of Elizabeth Anesta Sewell whose grandfather William Sewell went to Jamaica shortly after the abolition of slavery, and profiting from the general view that Abolition had ruined the plantations, bought up a number of estates including some that had belonged to the family of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. William’s partner married his daughter but died childless so that the legacy William had to leave at his death was a very valuable one. However, knowing that his son Henry was a spendthrift, William left his estate in trust to his five grandchildren, of whom ‘Diana’ was one.

In 1889 sixteen year old Diana, her older sister Beattie and their parents went out to Jamaica to live on Arcadia, while their brother Philip was sent to learn the business on the Oxford estate. The memoir, written over a period of years, has some fictionalised elements, partly perhaps to conceal the fact that Diana’s father embezzled part of his children’s inheritance. In the book this crime is committed by the attorney, which certainly fits with much of Jamaica’s history of dishonest estate management.

The year Diana spent in Jamaica was one not only of learning about a new country and its customs, but also one of growing up, of attending parties and of being forced by her father to promise never to marry. Her descriptions of a sugar estate in the late nineteenth century differ from the eighteenth mainly in the increased use of machinery and the relative freedom of the black workers. We are left in no doubt however about the different standing of various white neighbours, the black house servants, who wear white, and the other workers who still wear mainly the osnaburg of their slave ancestors.

She describes the house on the Oxford estate.  “Like many of the old fashioned Jamaican houses, it was built a storey above ground. Underneath were storerooms and servants’ sleeping quarters. Above these, approached only by two flights of steps, was the main part of the building and, crwning all, was a wide sloping hurricane roof.” At Oxford Diana learned that it was important to know the working cattle by name to ensure that none was worked two days running, “no steer, fed as these are, can stand being worked every day”. Diana learned to recognise all her brother’s cattle and on one occasion spotted one that had been out the previous day. The other drivers shouted with laughter that their colleague had been caught out by a young white girl.

On another occasion Diana was asked to count the canes in the cane bundles, as some workers would try to cheat by having too few in each bundle. She picked a bundle made up by Alexandra, a black woman who Diana comes to realise is the attorney’s mistress, and her intuition is proved right when the bundle is short. The ambiguities and nuances of post slavery, colonial Jamaica are very clearly brought out in descriptions of entertainments, riding parties and an encounter with a family of poor whites who have been evicted from their property.

There are moments of high drama too when they are riding back from a neighbouring property and are charged by a herd of cattle, or when the cattle are being counted and two huge bulls start to fight while Diana is trapped and only rescued by the black overseer. There is the night Diana spends alone with a large bag containing the estate money wondering if she will be attacked and murdered for it.

There are descriptions of lavish meals, melon, turtle, turtles eggs, yam, sweet potatoes, cho-chos, peahen, fried plantain, avocado pears and coconut pudding, but an underlying sense of the struggle Diana’s mother faces to maintain a style of life she had known as a young bride a quarter of a century earlier. When a careless servant spills water on the highly polished mahogany floor, she is equally careless about mopping it up, and there is the strong sense of a colonial way of life slipping away.

There are wonderful descriptions of the Jamaican landscape and vivid character sketches of the people who lived there. It is no wonder that when Diana’s nephew discovered the manuscripts of her memoirs after her death that he wanted to be able to publish them.

They richly deserve to find a wider audience and to stand alongside Lady Nugent’s earlier descriptions of Jamaica which convey the impressions of a sympathetic outsider and help the reader to understand how Jamaica has evolved.

 

A Year in Jamaica: Memoirs of a Girl in Arcadia in 1889, Diana Lewes, Eland Publishing Ltd, London, 2013. ISBN 978 1 906011 83 3 cover price £16.99